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On Deserving Food

I am a spoiled brat. This is the cause of many of my personality defects.

Last night, I had sandwiches, sweet corn, and lemonade for supper. The sandwiches were made of homemade peasant bread, marinated chicken, homemade pickles, and tomatoes fresh from the garden. The sweet corn was also fresh from the garden and it was the best corn that I have had all year. The only thing that kept the meal from being perfect was that I did not deserve it.

To properly eat a meal like that you should work hard all day. Then you will think you have died and gone to heaven when you eat it. There is nothing like hunger to sharpen your taste buds. But I did nothing that was remotely productive all day yesterday. Plus I was fighting off some kind of bug. So I could not properly hold up my end of the meal.

This is not a rare occurrence; I get meals I don’t deserve all the time. This contributes to my spoiled nature.

This worries me somewhat. It is not that I mind being spoiled per se. Like most brats I consider the process of being spoiled my God given right. But I do worry that my ability to appreciate good food will start to diminish if I don’t start deserving it more.

A lot of people look at hunger as something that makes you less fussy about what you eat. But this is far from the truth. What hunger actually does is make your taste buds sharper. So you enjoy the foods you like even more and you hate the foods you hate even more. It is only when you go into the starvation stage that your body starts telling you to eat everything in sight.

It is for this reason that objectively good food tends to spring from rural cultures where hard work is the norm. People whose bodies actually need food are the ones who properly appreciate the truly good cooks. People whose bodies don’t actually need the food tend to be swayed by psychological factors.

Most so called high cuisine is not objectively good. That is to say, if you did blind tastes tests in neutral environments, most high cuisine would not be noteworthy. This is borne out by many recent food scandals.

For example, a couple of teenagers found that many sushi joints mislabel their fish. They tell people they are getting expensive fish when really they are getting a cheaper fish. The reason that they can get away with this is few people can tell the difference on taste alone. Most (all?) of the customers at these joints are choosing their food for psychological (as opposed to biological) reasons.

We could make similar observations about wine. A prankster recently proved that Wine Spectator magazine has no objective criteria for awarding its Awards of Excellence for wine lists. Again, the reason that Wine Spectator got away with this is that few people really buy wine on the basis of taste.

These scandals are just the tip of the iceberg. Most people who buy high cuisine are not buying it because of taste. Hence, restaurants who want to make money must play a lot of games in order to fool customers into thinking that they are something special.

Good food without gimmicks can only survive in places where people have a deep biological need to eat a lot of food. And people only have a deep biological need to eat a lot of food when they burn a lot of calories. You don’t burn a lot of calories by spending 30 minutes on treadmill. Rather, you burn a lot of calories by working 10 hours of hard physical labor.

This is something that is forgotten by the high cuisine types who idealize the rural cooking of whatever particular culture they are in love with at the moment. They pay homage to the skills of rural women who were cooking since they were children. They demand the freshest of ingredients. But they forget the grounding influence of hard labor that was the norm in all rural cultures.

It was this grounding influence that kept traditional rural cuisine from chasing the latest fad as is typical for the high cuisine types. The guys coming out of the field in rural cultures worked harder than we can imagine today. As such, when they came out of the fields they were not thinking about keeping up with the Joneses or appearing sophisticated. They were thinking, “I need food.” What’s more, eating was often the only form of relaxation and entertainment they were going to get that day. Any meal that could keep them happy would stand the test of time.

Shorn of this grounding influence, interpretations of traditional dishes by the acolytes of high cuisine cease to function as food for hungry people. They are dependent on mind for their appeal, not the stomach. And because the mind is fickle, their meals do not stand the test of time.

2 Responses to “On Deserving Food”

  1. on 23 Aug 2008 at 6:58 pmGood Doggy

    I think you mean peasant bread! 😛

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